‘No matter where it is, it's just horrible’: NH responds to mass shooting in Maine
This is a developing story, and this post was last updated at 5:20 p.m. We will continue to share updates as we are able to confirm more information.
Some New Hampshire schools increased police presence Thursday, as the search continues for a man suspected in a mass shooting in Maine Wednesday night.
Authorities say at least 18 people were killed Wednesday night in Lewiston, and 40-year-old Robert Card, who has been named as the suspect in the shooting, is still at large. Some colleges, public schools and daycares closed across Maine Thursday.
No New Hampshire school districts appear to be closed at this time. But the Portsmouth and Somersworth school districts, both along the Maine border, say law enforcement will monitor school grounds there.
In downtown Somersworth — a few blocks from the Maine state line — residents expressed shock and sadness Thursday.
“Over the past, what, couple of years, there's been more and more shootings — and now it's kind of closer to home,” said Noah Grossman, who lives in Somersworth. “And it's just terrifying.”
Grossman said a friend of his lives in Lewiston. The friend was unharmed, but saw police cars everywhere.
“What if he was out that day? You know, what if he was at one of those places?” Grossman said. “Just scary to think about.”
Another Somersworth resident, Tony Galon, said it “does hurt a little more” for it to happen so close to home. But “no matter where it is, it's just horrible.” He called the country’s gun violence problem out of control, and said politicians need to act.
“Get those guns away from people,” he said. “I know gun laws are tricky, and I know people have a right to bear arms — but, I mean, enough's enough. I mean, it's got to stop.”
Meanwhile, New Hampshire officials said they were offering support on multiple fronts as authorities continued to search for Card.
A New Hampshire SWAT team assisted Maine SWAT units on the ground Thursday, and a New Hampshire State Police helicopter provided aerial support. New Hampshire’s medical examiner also helped with autopsies, and state troopers shuttled blood from New Hampshire hospitals to facilities in Maine.
“New Hampshire state officials have been in touch with our counterparts in Maine to offer and provide any medical and safety resources needed as they manage this horrific situation,” Gov. Chris Sununu said in a press release from the Department of Safety. “Our hearts and prayers are with the people of Maine.”
The New Hampshire Department of Justice said it would send three victims' advocates to Maine to assist local families affected by the shooting.
New Hampshire Safety Commissioner Robert Quinn urged residents to “stay vigilant” and report any suspicious activity to local police or 911.
The New Hampshire Information and Analysis Center is coordinating information sharing among officials at the local, state and national levels, according to state safety officials.
In an interview Thursday morning, New Hampshire State Police Captain Victor Muzzey said there was no known threat to New Hampshire residents and the suspect has no known connection to New Hampshire. He said police were preparing in case a threat in New Hampshire does emerge.
“These situations can be fluid and evolve and move and change,” Muzzey said. “We took a proactive step to position our state police resources where applicable along the border or in bordering towns.”
Hospitals in New Hampshire began preparations Wednesday night to potentially support Maine casualties.
Portsmouth Regional Hospital’s Level II trauma program was put on alert immediately, and staff and providers were notified to possibly receive patients and support medical providers in Maine, a spokesperson said.
Portsmouth Regional is part of HCA New England, which also includes health care hospitals in Rochester and Derry. The hospitals, as of Thursday morning, had not received any patients from the shootings in Maine.
“We have been in constant communications with our peers in Maine and have been standing by to provide any support needed,” the HCA spokesperson said in a statement. “We also remain in close communication with local law enforcement to be aware of updates that could impact our facility and region.”
A spokesperson for Wentworth-Douglass Hospital in Dover said that hospital also had not received any patients from Maine, but was prepared to assist.
The proximity of the mass shooting to New Hampshire communities and businesses is apparent. Darin Roark, the president and CEO of Wentworth-Douglass Hospital, noted the close ties to Maine in a note to his colleagues. The hospital has over 650 employees who live in Maine.
“As a community of healers, it’s usually our singular focus to care for those who come to us for help,” Roark wrote. “Today, I ask that you not only care for our patients and their families, but also for each other, especially those who may be struggling with events happening around us.”